- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - The worker killed when the interior of a midtown Manhattan building caved in during a demolition project was identified Saturday as authorities probed what caused the collapse.

Pedro Bacilio, 26, died after part of a five-story town house crumbled Friday morning, police said. Another worker was trapped in the rubble for three hours before emergency crews could dig him out, using special tools, authorities said.

Possible phone numbers for Bacilio’s Brooklyn home rang unanswered Saturday, and messages left for the demolition company’s owner, its lawyer and the property owner weren’t immediately returned.

Investigators continued working Saturday at the site, where workers had been taking two adjacent buildings down, floor-by-floor, for several months before Friday’s collapse. Owner Fortuna Realty Group has been planning a 170-room boutique hotel at the site.

Fortuna had the necessary permits for demolition, building officials said. Inspectors had issued a citation for excessive debris on Aug. 25 but nothing more serious, officials said.

But an engineer on the project requested Thursday that work cease until the building could be shored up better, officials said. It’s not clear whether that work was underway Friday when the interior fell in from the fifth floor to the basement, leaving a V-shaped cavity and one worker stuck at the bottom of it.

He remained conscious throughout the painstaking, perilous rescue, as emergency workers labored to free him from the debris without becoming trapped themselves. Seventeen workers escaped uninjured.

Fortuna’s owners have referred inquiries to demolition firm Northeast Service Interiors. Its lawyer, Joseph DiBenedetto, said the work was being done to code.

“This is an unexplainable accident,” he said in an email Saturday. “We are mourning the loss of a dedicated employee that we considered family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”

City Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler called the collapse a reminder of “the risks of construction work, particularly in the demolition of buildings.”


Reach Jennifer Peltz on Twitter @ jennpeltz.

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